This year I bought my first house. I cannot count the number of people who, when I told them, bit nervously bit their lip and said “Ooooh, they say buying a house is one of the most stressful experiences you can have in life”.
I’m a natural optimist so I brushed the comments aside. How stressful could it be?
OK, so I must admit, they were completely right! We decided to move out of our rental flat back to my husband’s parents’ house for a month whilst the sale went through. Then, disaster struck and the sale fell apart. Oh no. Not to worry though…. we soon found a second house and things were back on track. Until they weren't. The second sale fell through too and we had to start the search again. We found house number 3 which was great. However, the process started to drag and soon one month at home turned into 2, then 3….and eventually 8 months on we were still not moved out!
We were lucky. We have a loving family who were happy to take us in and let us stay as long as we needed. But the whole situation felt so….out of our hands. It was stressful not knowing what was going to happen, being on edge about whether our third house sale would go through or not, feeling helpless to push the process along any faster than it could naturally go and waiting…..all of the waiting. Waiting for estate agents, solicitors, banks, sellers, the housing chain. It was enough to put me on edge. That screwed up ball feeling in your stomach and my shoulders inching closer to my ears every day! This is what I call impatience anxiety!
My optimism was starting to feel crushed and I was becoming anxious. I knew I needed to find a solution to what seemed like endless waiting.
After months of thinking about the house, I decided I needed a new focus and found solace in my allotment. I directed all of my frustration and nervous energy into tending my plants, creating new life and nurturing and caring for the space.
All of my little seedlings were neatly potted, watered and looked after. I built protective cases for my outdoor plants and netting for the fruit bushes. I cleared paths and walkways, trimmed the hedges, weeded the beds, cleaned the patio and, organised my shed. I created a regular routine of tending to the plants before sitting quietly with a flask of tea, breathing deeply and taking in the fresh air. And it always made me feel better. During my time at the allotment, all of life’s stresses were left behind. It was just me, the plants, birds, trees and fresh air. Whilst the stress of moving was still present, I knew I had a few hours where all I needed to think about was the allotment and soon I found my anxiety beginning to reduce.
Somewhere around the middle of summer my allotment time started to fall by the wayside. I had a 2 week holiday, things started to move with the house and life got very busy for a while. I wasn’t finding the time for the allotment and as each day passed I started to feel pangs of guilt. My poor plants… abandoned and left to the elements with no-one to care for them. Would all of the hard work I’d put in the past few months spoiled? Would slugs and snails have munched their way through all of my plants? It had been almost 2 months since I last went there.
As I made my way down the little path to the allotment, I was nervous about what I’d find. I imagined fighting my way through weeds as tall as me, getting tangled in spider webs and vines, fighting through a jungle to discover a ramshackle shed building and a graveyard of shrivelled and dried out souls of plants being all that remained. I took a deep breath I as pushed open the door and ventured inside.
A shriek of excitement! My plants weren’t destroyed, they were flourishing!
Beautiful wild flowers all around, fruit bushes full of juicy berries, great big leaves marking potato crops that lay beneath and a bed full of onions ready to be picked. And the most exciting of all? My thriving pumpkin patch packed with ginormous ripened pumpkins!!!
The point of this story is that sometimes, even though it seems frustrating at the time, leaving things be might be just what they need. Just as the plants needed time to grow, I needed this time to learn how to let go of things I can’t control and cultivate patience.
I was scared of going back up to the allotment. I felt bad for not going up there for such a long time and I was worried that all of my hard work would be ruined. The final lesson I learned from all of this is not to be afraid to pick up where you left off – things mightn’t be as bad as you think they are. Why did I put so much energy into worrying about how bad things might have been instead of just going up there and finding out? Things are often worse in your head than in reality so find out what you’re dealing with before you spend sleepless nights worrying about it! You never know – maybe your shrivelled plants are really giant pumpkins!
I’m finally in my new house now but having learned a thing or two in the past 9 months I thought I’d share...
Claire’s 4 steps to impatience anxiety relief:
1. Let go
First of all, I needed to realise and accept that no matter how irritating an unfair all of this waiting seemed to me, there was nothing I could do to speed things up. If waiting is all you can do, then accepting that your only option is to let the process unfold naturally is the first part of letting all of that anxiety go. There will be a conclusion, the process will not continue forever and you needed to find focus in something else whilst things move along.
2. Find a new focus
I needed something new to put my energy into. Instead of sitting there thinking “why hasn’t my solicitor rung?” or “when will this chain be complete?” I had to find something new to be my focus. Find something practical, something healthy, something you can control. I chose my allotment but maybe you'd choose to grow plants at home, garden, create something, sew, make, cook or bake. Write stories or poetry, lean to play an instrument or speak another language, or volunteer somewhere. Choose something practical that you can concentrate on, nurture and give love to. Something where you can control how much time I spend on it and that you can develop without having to rely on others. Find peace in your activity.
3. Understand that sometimes waiting is best
Let's face it, sometimes waiting is rubbish. But sometimes, it’s exactly what you need. Waiting gave me time to learn these lessons and it gave my plants time to grow into mega pumpkins! Find the positive in your delays. Whether you believe in fate or not, there’s always something positive in a situation if you look for it. Allow your waiting to give you the time to cultivate patience, and learn something from the situation.
4. Don’t be afraid of the future
It’s easier said than done – I know well enough that your mind can run away with you. But next time your mind is racing with all the terrible possibilities that may lie ahead, take a minute to remember that there are also positive possibilities.
There’s a Winnie the Pooh quote that sums this up nicely:
Piglet said “Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
“'Supposing it didn't”, said Pooh.
After careful thought, Piglet was comforted by this.